Google announced yesterday that they will discontinue Reader as of July 1, 2013. People have, unsurprisingly, reacted online. That’s fine, and expected, and I don’t know if it will have any impact on what Google does now, but in the meantime I am trying to come to my own peace with losing Reader. Reader plays a huge part in how I structure my life online, and to try to understand that, I’d like to explain why it will be hard to replace.
First, I hate having to log in to things, and one of the wonderful benefits of Reader was that it wasn’t another thing for me to log into, it was already part of my Google account, which I’m basically always connected to through Gmail. Especially since it is tied so closely to my email, Reader is my only and constant source of news and everything I’m interested in.
Let me tell a little anecdote which might help explain. When I was growing up, my mom would start the day every day by reading three separate newspapers over breakfast. She would then tell me, or show me, or cut out for me, the specific articles which she thought I would find interesting (she still does this and it still drives me crazy). But I do the exact same thing, only on the web. Here is how I start my day everyday: over breakfast, I open my Gmail, check my emails, then open Reader. I go through a feed, or a category of feeds, and when I find something interesting I post it to Facebook. Repeat.
Reader is like someone delivering me just the sections that I’m interested in (science & tech, hyper local, fashion, comics) of all the newspapers from everywhere every morning. It isn’t my mother, cutting out the articles that it thinks I’m interesting in. It gives me everything, and I get to see it all. Even better, if I don’t finish reading my customized paper over breakfast, I can get it on the bus through my phone, through my tablet, at work, really anywhere, and I know exactly where I was and what I’ve already seen. Then, four months later when I have a vague recollection of seeing an article about augmented reality through running shoes, I can do a quick search for AR, or running shoes, and (usually) find exactly what I was looking for. It is simple and seamless and great.
Now, if Google wants to get into social and compete with Facebook (which they arguably do), cutting out Reader is not the way to do this. For me at least, Reader is a crucial step to finding content to re-post to other social networks. I don’t want a network of virtual mothers recommending articles for me to read. I don’t want articles from the same three technology newspapers repackaged as a glossy magazine. I want bare-bones content from the sources of my choosing.
This choice that Google has made also makes me question my ties to every other service they currently provide to me. I love Gmail. I think it is the best email client and I love it. But can I put all my information eggs in one very good basket when I have experienced how that basket can be taken away at any time, leaving me precariously holding all of my eggs figuring out what to do with them?